China's first 160 kilometer-an-hour magnetic levitation trains will be delivered this year－a breakthrough that will help accelerate the pace of developing a medium-to-low speed series of maglev family products, a leading rail sector executive said on Thursday.
A production line with intelligent manufacturing systems will be launched by the end of 2018, said Zhang Liqiang, vice-president and chief financial officer of CRRC Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co Ltd.
Zhang said the trains will be used in Central China's Hunan province, where the nation's first 100 km/h maglev rail line has been "operating safely and smoothly" since last year.
He said CRRC Zhuzhou had decided to research and supply maglev trains－with higher speeds between 160 kmh and 200 kph－ with lower construction cost and higher operation efficiency.
Zhang revealed his group's plans to a group of correspondents from Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, on a visit to the company on Thursday, which was organized by the ASEAN-China Center.
Zhang said the trains would mainly target domestic markets, and added that several cities such as Wuhan in Hubei province had shown strong interest.
Maglev trains are considered safer and cheaper than constructing traditional metro and light rail systems. They use electromagnets and especially designed tracks to keep the trains from overturning or derailing.
The railway major's cutting-edge technology and product development have been fueled by the country's Made in China 2025 strategy, which was designed to promote high-end manufacturing.
To enhance its operating efficiency and product quality, the company will launch a production line with intelligent manufacturing systems by the end of 2018, Zhang said.
"By then, robots and robotic arms will get most work done in that production site."
Qian Qingquan, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a professor at Southwest Jiaotong University, said China has already formed a complete industrial chain of middle-to-low speed maglev trains.
China's rail transit innovation and immense growth potential will provide a solid base for a maglev train industry, Qian said.
The world's first maglev line was launched in China in 2002, connecting a metro station to the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.
The 30-km journey takes less than eight minutes to travel, thanks to train with the speed of up to 430 kph.